Animal Kingdom’s Shawn Hatosy talks directing this week’s pivotal episode

Shawn Hatosy directs Animal Kingdom season 4, episode 11. Photo Credit: Eddy Chen/Courtesy of TNT.
Shawn Hatosy directs Animal Kingdom season 4, episode 11. Photo Credit: Eddy Chen/Courtesy of TNT. /

Shawn Hatosy isn’t just starring in this week’s episode of Animal Kingdom; he directed it, and took Hidden Remote inside his directorial process.

Tonight’s episode of Animal Kingdom is an important one—both in front of and behind the camera. Series star Shawn Hatosy is directing his second installment of the TNT drama, and he connected with Hidden Remote to discuss his experience as a director.

He also spoke about balancing directing with starring as Pope, how he works with his co-stars when he’s serving as the director, and the one thing that he’s still trying to figure out about this season.

Learn more in our Shawn Hatosy interview below, then catch him as both actor and director when Animal Kingdom airs tonight on TNT at 9 p.m. ET/PT!

Hidden Remote: You previously directed an episode of Animal Kingdom last season [“Jackpot”]. Did you learn anything from that experience that you carried into this one?

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Shawn Hatosy: I did. The biggest challenge for episodic television—or at least for a show like ours—we’ve got seven days in Los Angeles, one day in Oceanside, 50-something pages, 47 minutes. So no matter how you slice it up, that’s what presents the biggest challenge.

I had a pretty big action sequence, which I can talk about. There was a shootout with Lucy’s family and the Cody family, where Pope gets taken hostage. There were like ten characters, and a lot of gunfire and action and stunts. That was the big challenge, and I ended up losing some shots, because we ran out of light.

So cut to [episode] 411 and I also have a pretty big action sequence which occurs in 1977. So what I learned is, of course you’re ready for whatever. You have a point of view and you want to shoot a certain way. But with these bigger action sequences, being prepared is the most important—but just accepting that we’re going to roll three cameras and get what we can and not get too hung up on particular shots and things. Because you can’t. You simply can’t. We don’t have the time.

HR: You mentioned this is episode 11 out of 13 this season. Does directing an episode later in the order change what you need to do as a director?

SH: I’ve only directed episode 11 in both seasons, and from my point of view it’s a great time to direct. Things that have been set up in the early episodes are coming to a head. They’re all good, but some are setting things up. Our show doesn’t have big things happening from episode to episode; it’s setup, setup and payoff.

We’re getting towards the end, so for both the present day narrative and the 1977 narrative, things are happening. And this an emotional episode for a lot of reasons, particularly the love story with Janine [Leila George] in college.

HR: You also have the challenge of managing directing duties with playing Pope. How do you balance the two?

SH: That’s the biggest [challenge] being an actor/director on a series, is not so much the episode that I”m directing [but] the episode prior, episode 10, because there’s so much preparation. There’s that full prep week, there’s scouting, all the production meetings, there’s a lot that goes into it. So scheduling my acting work for 10 and then my directing work for 411 is the part that stresses me out the most. I love it; I like the stress, I like [the] kind of forced creativity.

But in terms of acting and being the director in 11, the big luxury for me this season was we had the 1977 story. Pope isn’t in it. That was a real opportunity for me to get a strong sense of what it’s like to be a normal director.

Animal Kingdom
Shawn Hatosy directs Animal Kingdom season 4, episode 11. Photo Credit: Eddy Chen/Courtesy of TNT. /

HR: When you get that script for episode 11, do you look at it the same way you would as an actor? Or do you have a different process as a director?

SH: It’s pretty similar. It’s just breaking down a scene and you read it a thousand times. Just understanding each character, their [point of view] and what they want and making the decision whose POV you’re going to lens the scene through. I think that’s kind of vital to each scene.

But I’m in a unique position because we, as actors on the show, we spend so much time over four seasons discussing and carving out dynamics of each relationship. I know these characters as well as I know my real family. The decisions come pretty easily.

HR: So how is it to work with your Animal Kingdom cast in that different capacity? Do you have that same level of collaboration?

SH: I think it’s a collaborative effort and I think the best idea wins…We rehearse scenes and we all find it the way we find it. I come into it as a director with a pretty good idea of where people are going to stand, where we’re going to put the car, where the cameras are going to be. But if we get into that situation where somebody’s like hey look, I’m feeling unmotivated to do that, the best idea’s going to win. It’s like show me and we’ll go. Usually pretty uniformly, we all agree on what the best is.

HR: What about this episode or about Animal Kingdom season 4 as a whole stands out to you? Is there anything you’re excited to uncover?

SH: This idea that Janine is pregnant with what we, as the audience, are supposed to understand is her oldest [child], so obviously that would be Pope. And having been with these characters, portraying Pope for four years obviously, I have a strong emotional connection to it.

And diving into this love story between Janine and Colin [Grant Harvey] is the heartbeat of this episode. Where it goes and just the hopefulness of this family. I am struck by her ability to unconditionally love Colin—and I’m then very confused as to why Smurf has become so cold in the present day. These two are clearly soulmates, and having said that, being able to be a part of telling the story, it means a lot to me.

Next. Catch up on Animal Kingdom now. dark

Animal Kingdom airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on TNT. For more on Animal Kingdom and other TNT series, check out the TNT category at Hidden Remote.